Are your kids mentally strong?

Recently I was holidaying in Bali with my children. As part of the normal holiday fun such as swimming and relaxing together, it was extremely interesting to observe the kids when they were being faced with a challenge. These tasks ranged in difficulty but I didn’t consider them to be challenging  (i.e bartering a price for a chosen good, ordering food in another language) to simple tasks such as having to be together in shared accommodation.

The interesting part was how they responded to adversity. I was baffled by how the youngest seemed to give up so easily and appeal for assistance but my daughter persevered to a point.

Seeing such examples gave me a firsthand view into what many of the parents in my local community have been discussing with me in my role as the Wellbeing Coach. How do I help my children to persevere so they don’t give up straight away?

It started me thinking about what I may have overlooked in order to assist my own children to be resilient when facing adversity. It was clear through discussions and reading that we all have differing opinions and by no means is this post a definitive list but I hope you find the below tips a good guide to use when finding your way through this parenting maze.

Raising a mentally strong kid – helping them find ‘Grit!’

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn’t mean they won’t have times of frustration or give up and it definitely won’t mean that they won’t throw that awful public tantrum that makes you want to crawl inside your own-self! Mental strength or ‘Grit’ as Dr Angela Duckworth explains is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks and it gives them the strength to keep going, even when they’re held back with self-doubt. A strong ‘gritty’ mental attitude when faced with a challenge or adversity is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential

However, raising mentally strong kids requires parents, and significant others in our children’s life, to avoid the common errors that we sometimes blindly make because of our unique context i.e separated or blended families or the simple fact we didn’t know any better and life is busy.

Tips for helping our kids to be mentally stronger.

Tip #1 -Strengths based approach. Teach our kids to focus on what they have to offer the world, rather than what they can gain from it. Allow them to know that the world does not revolve around them and that they need to show the world what they can offer and not what others need to do for them.

Tip #2- Rejection, failure, and unfairness are a part of life that happens and we must teach our children how to cope with these ‘bumps in the road’. We need to teach them that no matter how tough or unjust their circumstances, they can always take positive action and be strong in the face of adversity.

Tip #3 –  Talk to our children about the different emotions we may face when being pressured by peers or other adults. Hurt feelings, sadness, and anxiety are part of life. Letting kids experience those painful feelings gives them opportunities to practice tolerating discomfort. Though it is imperative that we are there to provide the guidance and support (not sort their problems for them) as they learn to deal with life’s inevitable hardships.

Tip #4 – Make sure as parents your priorities accurately reflect the things you value in life. We must make sure we don’t lose sight of our values

Tip #5 – Maintain family order and hierarchy. Kids are kids and Mum and Dad are adults. We can be friendly but they don’t need another friend. Understand that treating kids like an equal or the boss actually robs them of mental strength. Allowing our children to continuously dictate what the family is going to do is more control than they are developmentally ready to handle. Let your kids make simple choices, (i.e. choosing their own lunchbox, negotiating the time they are to complete their chores or homework) while maintaining a clear family hierarchy.

Tip #6 – Be non judgmental to our children’s mistakes and failures. Observe and discuss what they could do to improve and use these as learning moments. Expecting our children to do well is healthy but expectations of grandeur 100% of the time, at all costs, can send an unhealthy message. Take the necessary steps to encourage our kids to strive for the best version of themselves, rather than the best at everything they do. 

Ideas adapted from 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. and Grit by Angela Duckworth.

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